Unlimited Web Hosting - What You Need to Know

If you've been comparing shared hosting companies, you are bound to have noticed all the advertising claiming to give you "unlimited bandwidth" and "unlimited disk space" and most of the time for a ridiculously low price. I will be the first to admit, that having unlimited disk space and bandwidth sounds good, but it is just not possible. It is marketing and you could honest make the argument that the hosting companies employing such marketing tactics are completely dishonest and it shows a lack of integrity by the company owners. Now I am not calling them liars, all I am saying is that the argument could be made that they are dishonest.

Look at the definition of unlimited below (source - thefreedictionary.com)

1. without limits or bounds unlimited knowledge
2. not restricted, limited, or qualified unlimited power

So when you apply that definition to a web hosting company you are saying that you have web hosting without any limits, bounds or restrictions. You are not limited in any way. So when a company says they offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space, they are telling you that you have no limits or restrictions on what you can have in way of disk space or bandwidth

Lets take a look at the term "Unlimited Diskspace"
According to the definition above, you would get disk space without any bounds or restrictions. The first thing you need to know is that there are not any "unlimited space" hard drives. So there goes the hosting without limits or restrictions. If there is not any unlimited space hard drives available, then every "unlimited disk space" plan has a limit. Secondly, the companies will say that they will offer you unlimited space meaning that you can use what you need for your web site, but is that really true. No, because they place limits on the number of files you can have in your unlimited web space.

Take a look at one of the most popular "unlimited" hosting companies terms of service

Accounts with a large number of files (inode count in excess of 200,000) can have an adverse affect on server performance. Similarly, accounts with an excessive number of MySQL/PostgreSQL tables (i.e., in excess of 1000 database tables) or of database size (i.e., in excess of 3GB total MySQL/PostgreSQL usage or 2GB MySQL/PostgreSQL usage in a single database) negatively affect the performance of the server. xxxxxxxxxx.com may request that the number of files/inodes, database tables, or total database usage be reduced to ensure proper performance or may terminate the Subscriber's account, with or without notice

So as you can see, they say you can unlimited space, but you can only have a certain amount of files on that "unlimited disk space plan". So your unlimited plan, now has arbitrary limits and they have been hidden in the terms and conditions.

Lets take a look at "unlimited bandwidth"
While the limits on bandwidth are certainly harder to visualize and comprehend, they are there. What you need to keep in mind about unlimited bandwidth is the cost. Let me give you an example and keep in mind that these are just estimates and the costs could be higher or siginificantly lower.

So lets say that your hosting company is paying .05 per gb of bandwidth and you use 250Gb per month. The cost to the hosting company would be 12.50. So, if the cost is $12.50 and they are only charging you $9.95 for an unlimited hosting plan, the company is losing $2.55 from you.

So if the company is in the negative $2.55, how can they pay support techs, rent, upgrade and maintenance costs per server. They cant, simple as that.

Lets take a look at the terms and conditions from our host above and see what they say.

However, xxxxxxxxxx.com reserves the right to limit processor time, bandwidth, processes, or memory in cases where it is necessary to prevent negatively impacting other Subscribers.

So, your shared hosting account offers unlimited hosting unless you start impacting other users. Sounds fair, but if everything is unlimited why are they worried about impacting other users.

Lets look at another...

In some cases, xxxxx may not establish a specific amount of bandwidth, disk space and other resources, and refer to that as "Unlimited". In all cases, the Services are intended for normal use only, and any activity that results in excessive usage that is inconsistent with normal usage patterns is strictly prohibited. xxxxx reserves the right to suspend, discontinue or delete the accounts of Users whose use of disk space, bandwidth or other resources results in or presents the risk of degradation of service to other customers, regardless of the amount of disk space, bandwidth or other resources included in the User's plan.

So according to this company, you have unlimited bandwidth/disk space until it is inconsistent with normal usage patterns. So  I guess if the other accounts on the server have 1Gb and you use 5gb, you would be inconsistent with the normal pattern and subject to have your unlimited account suspended or other wise subject to xxxxx scrutiny. And while they are considering other accounts on the server, what is to consider if everything is unlimited.

So as you can see, unlimited can be far from unlimited if you start using to many of those unlimited resources.

So if they are not going to provide you with unlimted why do they offer it and how do they get away with it.
Hosting is a very competitive and cut throat industry, so a lot of companies will do what it takes to get the customer. They do this knowing that you are not savy hosting buyers and you will use very little if any of the resources. In fact most web sites use less than 1-2gb of space and less than 10-15gb of bandwidth. They get away with this knowing that most of the customers will never come close and if they do the hosting company has a terms of service to fall back on.

So why should you be concerned
Even though the chances of you using the given resources is slim to none, you should weigh the options of doing business with a company that has no intentions of giving you what you pay for and who hide behind a terms of service telling you that your unlimited is not unlimited. While I am not calling them liars, I am saying you could argue their honesty all day long.

So what do you as a hosting customer need to do?
Well I would start looking at the offers that have definitive limits so that you know what you have to work with and where you stand. Secondly, take a look at the prices. Are they realistic, do they sound to good to be true. While no one wants to pay a lot for hosting, you truly get what you pay for. $10 a month for unlimted sounds good, until you realize (when your site goes down) it is not actually unlimited. A better deal, would be paying the same $10 for a hosting plan that has definitive limits run by a company that offers affordable and realistic hosting solutions.